November 9, 2023
By: Katherine Trowbridge
Franklin County has a rich history, one that is tied closely to our Veterans. From the farm blocks, which were given first dibs to Veterans coming out of WWII, to our own County Courthouse which boasts a number of Veteran employees, including Prosecutor Shawn Sant and County Court Clerk, Michael Killian.
Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant has served in both the U.S. Air Force and now as a Civil Service Officer for the U.S. Army.
Sant always had an interest in the military but took a different direction, serving a two year mission for his church right out of high school, returning to attend Columbia Basin College (CBC).
While attending CBC, he signed up to do a ride-along with local law enforcement and through that experience, changed his entire trajectory. He moved from a business major to criminal justice and signed up to be a reserve police officer while attending school. The reserve police academy afforded him 12 credits towards his new degree. Sant gave over 3,000 hours as a reserve police officer for the Richland Police Department. He stated, “I liked it enough to apply for full time employment and was accepted by the City of Prosser in 1995.”
Sant finished his criminal justice degree but after serving as a police officer, appearing in court for various cases, he found he also enjoyed the law side of law enforcement. Sant was looking into options and got, as he said it, “the crazy idea to join the airforce.” He explained that it provided him the opportunity to serve his country in the military and pay for a four year degree.
Stepping back a bit, he met his wife, Kati, on a return trip to Finland, where he had served his mission. The couple married while he was at the police academy for his full-time service in Prosser, over Veterans Day weekend. Katie and their seven month old returned to Finland to stay with her family while Sant did his basic training at Fort Leonard Army Base.
The couple moved from Prosser to California for his four year tour at Travis Air Force Base. The couple lived in 13 different places in only 10 years of marriage. Sant did not stay in the military beyond his first four year tour of duty, but was always extremely proud of his service.
He said he got out to attend law school, “I still enjoy the investigative side of law but thought I’d like to be a deputy prosecutor.
Following school he applied to both Benton and Franklin County, and Franklin County accepted him with an opportunity to work. He began in District and Juvenile Court. He did move up to the Prosecutor’s Office working homicide cases. In 2010, he ran for the prosecutor’s position and took office in 2011, and has been serving the county in this role ever since.
In August of 2020 he received a call from the Army Civil Affairs Branch asking if he was interested in hearing about a program they had coming up. They were looking for certain skill sets from a variety of backgrounds and Sant had the judicial legal background. Sant didn’t think he would ever get back into the military, especially as he was getting older. He applied and heard that he was accepted in October. In Sept. of 2021, he passed the eligibility and in April of 2022, he received his orders to join the program as a Major. He served at Fort Benning for about six weeks in August of 2022 and will soon complete the next phase of his basic officer training.
Sant chose to hold his swearing in ceremony at the Franklin County Veterans Center in Pasco. He had worked with this group in conjunction with his county duties and the Veterans Court which made it meaningful to him.
The program, through the Army Civil Affairs, is part of the 351st Kcom and is responsible for the entire west coast of the United States stretching as far as India and into the Pacific Islands. He stated they provide a lot of service to partner nations.
While his service may take him away from Franklin County at times, Sant is still in touch with his office at the courthouse and overseeing his duties as Franklin County Prosecutor.
This second opportunity to serve his country came as a surprise. Sant stated, “The biggest shock to me was that there was a program for someone older like me.” He added that it is also good motivation to stay physically and mentally fit in order to compete with the younger recruits.
Through the military, Sant stated he gets a lot of great relationships from all across the country and various backgrounds. The people he serves with are a, “true inspiration of why people live in this country and choose to serve.”
Sant encouraged others stating, “I think a lot of people should look at the military - The GI benefits alone are great but there is also a wide variety of interests that can fit into the military - You can be a drone pilot, if you like computers there is a whole cyber network of experts, if you like to cook - you can learn to be a chef, and the military will provide valuable training and additional skills. I can’t think of any other career that you can retire from in 20 years with full benefits and still have the opportunity to pursue a whole other career. There are so many benefits to military service whether you serve four years or 20 like the VA loan program to become a homeowner. There are a lot of different bonuses and perks, health insurance is a huge benefit.” He added that recruiting efforts have changed a lot and that the military is facilitating what interests young people have.
Sant stated he was able to obtain his pilot’s license while in the Air Force.
While many look at the military in the concept of war, Sant expressed that the military is there to “promote peace and avoid conflicts but when conflicts arise, we are there to rise to the challenge and do what is necessary…”
Sant added, “I appreciate my family and the sacrifices they make of me being gone at times. I feel it is a privilege for me to be able to serve.”
A young Michael Killian (center) and his twin sons all serving in the U.S. Navy
Sant isn’t the only Veteran in our county court system. Michael Killian joined the U.S. Navy at a young age and retired from the Naval Reserves. Killian also has two sons currently serving in the United States Navy. Killian serves Franklin County as the Court Clerk.
Like Sant, Killian is proud of his service to our country and takes that mindset into his work at the county level.
Be sure to thank the Veterans in your life this week… There are many rewards to service, but also many sacrifices.
We appreciate all our Veterans and their families!